Say It Loud?

Image and video hosting by TinyPicI went to the Black Star reunion concert on Saturday with the lovely hubby and some great friends here in New York. The show was crazy, if waaaaay too short and I could have gone for a few more Talib songs (y’all know he’s your favorite MC’s favorite MC), plus I was pissed that they didn’t do “Thieves in the Night.”
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One of the reasons I love Black Star so much is that, besides the tight flow, those cats touch on some real stuff in their songs:
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Not strong, only aggressive / Not free, we only licensed
Not compassionate, only polite / Now who the nicest?
Not good, but well behaved / Chasin’ after death, so we can call ourselves brave?
Still livin’ like mental slaves…—“Theives in the Night,” Black Star

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So when Mos started into “Umi Says” and my girl said that he modified a key line when she saw him perform it in front of a white audience in Chicago, I was appalled.

What could he have changed that got me so heated? You know how he says, “I want Black people to be free, to be free, to be free”? Yeah, he changed it to “I want the people to be free, to be free, to be free.” It might sound like a tiny change to you, but to this Black woman, the omission boomed loud and clear. It’s not that I don’t want freedom for everyone, clearly, but this song is specifically implores Black folks to use our talents, live like this is our last day on Earth and unite as one. This is not like ad-libbing a shout out to Cleveland (shouts to Cleveland!); to change that word is to weaken the message of the entire song, in my humble opinion.

(image: allthewaylive.net)

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I was forced to ask myself (and my peoples) a couple of questions: At what point do we compromise our beliefs for commerce? And what did he stand to gain by changing it anyway, as cats had already bought the tickets? Was it simply out of fear of offending them? Or was he trying to give the crowd a rendition they could relate to? Um, hadn’t they already heard the real version on the CD?

Of course after my girl told me that, I spent the entire song waiting for that part, lol. And I was relieved that he said the words as they appear on my iPod; as my friends said, cats probably would have torn the whole damn place down if he hadn’t.

Would it have bothered you if he hadn’t stuck to the original lyrics? Think I’m an “overreactor” who likes to make up words? Were you there and you just wanna share your thoughts on that annoying chick in the hat who was with 88 Keys? Let me know!

—Kenrya

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Last 5 posts by kenrya

  • Ricki

    I went to the show and Saturday, too. I would have had serious problems if he’s altered the lyrics to appease certain people. Messages of value sometimes cause some discomfort.

    Also, what was up with 88 Keys? His set was wack.

  • Steely D

    aw, i love 88. he’s such a nice guy with great beats. what was so terrible?

    I’d be PISSED if mos changed it…sotomayor style. lol…

  • Ricki

    That chick he had coming out was awful. Everytime she took to the stage she got booed. Folks also got a little pissed when he came out with that black glove, his chest showing, and dancing around like he was Kanye. He should really come up with something else. His performance didn’t seem to be him.

  • Dom

    IDK. I like Umi Says and I am a Mos fan. But I wouldnt be offended if he changed the lyrics. Sometimes you have to appease the audience and make all feel welcome. If they’ve already heard the song, bought the CD, and came to the concert then they deserve to feel included too.

  • Tahad

    “88” keys has a nice flow and his lyrics are not bad, but too many songs about women and sex. I thought little Kim had that field of hip hop already. I think he needs to go back to the pad with some new tracks and make some party joints. I was def feeling Black Star. Great show! I would see them again and again and again, yeah! you get the picture.

  • kenrya

    @Steely D: Man! 88 Keys had some chick coming out doing little vignettes before each song in this squeaky, hood little Michele-sounding voice. It broke up the flow of the set, and was sooo annoying. And when cats started booing him, he did a Kanye impression that was an ENTIRE (Kanye) song long! It was out of pocket. Plus, he did too many songs. Cats were not feeling him at all. The only reason he didn’t get a bottle to the head was that he brought Bilal out for his last song, lol.

  • Tina

    I think artists do it all of the time- but because Black Star tends to kick the more conscious rhymes, it may feel a little more disingenuous…but, I think he probably said “black people” and “the people” interchangably. As much as we black folks love to love our artists, they inspire people of all shades, cultures and beliefs and that’s a beautiful thang (and at times… A Beautiful Struggle, I’m sure 🙂
    Totally agree Saturday’s concert was way too short and I wanted them to interact w/ the crowd a lot more. Deliver was on point, though! 88 Keys…not so much. The sound during his set was terrible, so I couldn’t appreciate his lyrical content, although I read up on him and felt like I *wanted* to like him. Not yet.

  • Vivian

    I think it may be a bit of over-reaction. It’s great that he wants Black people to use their talents. However I always need to point out as the Latina that the phrase “Black people” is exclusionary to the rest of us who aren’t African-American i.e. Asian, Latino, American-Indian, etc. I know we all like to pretend that we are all in this together against the man, but we really aren’t. I personally am beyond fed-up that all racial problems in the U.S. are distilled into black or white issues.

  • Ricki

    I see your point, Vivian. Unfortunately blacks have a unique history in this country and much of our experience today is shaped by that. Given the content of the song the phrase “Black people” is more than appropriate. I also think blacks water down their message and their struggles far too often for the comfort of others, including “latinos” (something I won’t get into on here because the term designates a region of origin and not necesserily ones ethnic/racial background), asians and whites. Blacks have been apologists and pacifists for far too long and its especially important that we (read: blacks) don’t go too far with it. Things are for too covert these days for that.

  • I Heart Ricki. I couldn’t have said it better.